CUTHBERT TUNSTALL or TONSTALL, Master of the Rolls, and bishop successively of London and Durham, born in 1474, was the eldest and illegitimate son of Thomas Tunstall of Thurland Castle, Lancashire. The family had long been settled at Thurland Castle, which Cuthbert's grandfather, Sir Richard Tunstall, had lost by attainder in 1460 in consequence of his Lancastrian sympathies.1 Cuthbert's mother is said to have been a member of the Conyers family.2 He was born at Hackforth in the North Riding of Yorkshire, a parish in which the Tunstalls held land of Sir John Conyers.3 His eldest surviving legitimate brother, Brian Tunstall, a noted soldier, inherited Thurland Castle, and was killed at Flodden Field on 9 Sept. 1513. He made Cuthbert supervisor of his will and guardian of his son Marmaduke, an arrangement which was confirmed by Henry VIII on 1 Aug. 1514.4
Cuthbert was said by George Holland in 1563 to have been 'in his youth near two years brought up in my great-grandfather Sir Thomas Holland's kitchen unknown, till being known he was sent home to Sir Richard Tunstall his father [sic], and so kept at school, as he himself declared in manner the same to me.'5 About 1491 he entered Oxford University, matriculating, it is said, from Balliol College. An outbreak of the plague compelled him to leave, and he removed to King's Hall (afterwards merged in Trinity College), Cambridge. Subsequently he graduated LL.D. at Padua. He acquired, besides the ordinary scholastic and theological accomplishments, familiarity with Greek, Hebrew, mathematics, and civil law. Erasmus mentioned him as one of the men who did credit to Henry's court, and he enjoyed the friendship of Warham, More, and other leaders of the renascence in England, as well as of foreign scholars like Beatus Rhenanus and Budaeus.6
After his return to England, Tunstall was on 26 Dec. 1506 presented to the rectory of Barmston in Yorkshire, but he was not ordained subdeacon until 24 March 1509. He resigned Barmston before 26 March 1507, and in 1508 was collated to the rectory of Stanhope in the county of Durham. He also held the living of Aldridge in Staffordshire, which he resigned in 1509, being in that year collated to the rectory of Steeple Langford, Wiltshire.7 On 26 Aug. 1511 Archbishop Warham appointed Tunstall his chancellor, and on 16 Dec. following gave him the rectory of Harrow-on-the-Hill. Warham also introduced him at court, and from this time his rise was rapid. On 15 April 1514 he received the prebend of Stow Longa, Lincoln Cathedral, in succession to Wolsey, and on 17 Nov. 1515 was admitted archdeacon of Chester.
On 7 May he had been appointed ambassador at Brussels to Charles, prince of Castile [later Charles V], to negotiate a continuance of the treaties made between Henry VIII and Philip, late king of Castile.8 He was also instructed to prevent Charles from forming a treaty with France, and these diplomatic tasks detained him most of the following year in the Netherlands.9 During his residence at Brussels he lodged with Erasmus; but his mission was unsuccessful, and, according to his colleague, Sir Thomas More, not much to his taste.10
On 12 May 1516 he was made master of the rolls. On 15 Oct. 1518 he was present at Greenwich at the betrothal of the king's daughter Mary to the dauphin of France, and delivered an oration in praise of matrimony, which was printed by Pynson in the same year as 'C. Tonstalli in Laudem Matrimonii Oratio,' London, 4to; a second edition was printed at Basle in 1519. In the latter year Tunstall became prebendary of Botevant in York Cathedral, and was again sent as ambassador to Charles V's court at Cologne. He returned to England in August 1520, but left again in September, and was at Worms during the winter of 1520-1. In his letters he gave an account of the spread of Lutheranism in Germany, and he earnestly urged Erasmus to write against that heresy.11 He returned to England in April, and in May was appointed dean of Salisbury, receiving about the same time the prebends of Combe and Hornham in that cathedral. In 1522 he was papally provided to the bishopric of London, the temporalities being restored on 5 July. On 25 May 1523 he was appointed keeper of the privy seal, and he delivered the king's speech at the opening of parliament in that year.
In April 1525 Tunstall was once more appointed ambassador, with Sir Richard Wingfield, to Charles V.12 He left Cowes on 18 April, and reached Toledo on 24 May. Francis I had been captured at Pavia, and Tunstall was entrusted with a proposal for the dismemberment of France and the exclusion of Francis I and his son from the French throne. It is, however, doubtful whether Wolsey was in earnest, and Charles V was not in the least likely to fall in with these schemes. He was equally reluctant to carry out his engagement to marry the Princess Mary, and as a result Wolsey accepted the French offers of peace. Tunstall returned to England through France in January 1526. Later in the year he was engaged in a visitation of his diocese, and his prohibition of Simon Fish's 'Supplication for the Beggars,' Tyndale's 'New Testament,' and other heretical books, is printed in 'Four Supplications'.13 In 1527 he accompanied Wolsey on his embassy to France, and in the following years was one of the plenipotiaries who negotiated the famous treaty of Cambray.14
In the divorce question, which now became acute, Tunstall was said to have been one of those who would have been entirely on the emperor's side had it not been for Wolsey's influence, and Catherine chose him as one of her counsel; but he used his influence to dissuade her from appealing to Rome. On 21 Feb. 1529-30 he was papally provided to the bishopric of Durham in succession to Wolsey, who had held the see in commendam with the archbishopric of York. Temporary custody of the temporalities was granted him on 4 Feb., and plenary restitution was made on 26 March; he was succeeded in the bishopric of London by his friend and ally, John Stokesley. Throughout the ensuing ecclesiastical revolution Tunstall's attitude was one of 'invincible moderation.' He retained till his death unshaken belief in catholic dogma, and he opposed with varying resolution all measures calculated to destroy it; but at the same time he seems to have believed in 'passive obedience' to the civil power, and even under Edward VI carried out ecclesiastical changes when sanctioned by parliament which he opposed before their enactment.
Thus he protested against Henry VIII's assumption of the title of 'supreme head' even with the saving clause about the rights of the church, 15 but he subsequently adopted it without reservation, remonstrated with Cardinal Pole on his attitude towards the royal supremacy, preached against the pope's authority in his diocese, and was selected to preach an Quinquagesima Sunday 1536 before four Carthusian monks condemned to death for refusing the oath of supremacy.16 He maintained it also in a sermon preached before the king on Palm Sunday 1539, which was published by Berthelet in the same year (London, 8vo), and reissued in 1533 (London, 4to).
Tunstall's acquiescence in this and the other measures which completed the severance between the English church and Rome was of material service to Henry VIII, for, after the death of Warham and Fisher, Tunstall was beyond doubt the most widely respected of English bishops. Pole wrote in 1536 to Giberti that Tunstall was then considered the greatest of English scholars.17 His influence was, however, occasionally feared by Henry, and previous to the parliament of 1536 which sanctioned the dissolution of the lesser monasteries, Tunstall was prevented from attending it, first by a letter from Henry excusing him from being present on account of his age, and secondly, when Tunstall was already near London, by a peremptory order from Cromwell to return.18
In 1537 Tunstall was provided with a fresh field of activity by being appointed president of the newly created council of the north,19 and his voluminous correspondence in this capacity is now in the British Museum (Addit. MSS. 32647-32648). He was frequently appointed on commissions to treat with the Scots, and acted generally as experienced adviser to the successive lieutenant-generals appointed by Henry to defend the borders or invade Scotland. He continued, however, to take an active part in religious matters, and in 1537 he, as one of the commissioners appointed to draw up the 'Institution of a Christian Man,' endeavoured to make it as catholic in tone as possible. In 1538 he examined John Lambert (d. 1538) on the corporeal presence in the eucharist, and in the following year he submitted to Henry arguments in favour of auricular confession as of divine origin.20
He attended the parliament of that year, which passed the act of six articles, asserting among other dogmas that, auricular confession was 'agreeable to the word of God,' and in 1541 was published the 'great bible' in English, which was 'overseene and perused' by Tunstall and Nicholas Heath. For the next few years Tunstall was chiefly occupied on the borders; in 1544 he was stationed at Newcastle during Hertford's invasion of Scotland. In November 1546 he was commissioned to negotiate peace with France,21 and in the following June was again sent to France to receive the ratification of the treaty of Ardres.22 He returned in August, and attended the parliament that was sitting when Henry VIII died on 28 Jan. 1546-7.
During Edward VI's reign Tunstall's position became increasingly difficult, but his friendly relations with Somerset and Cranmer, combined with his own moderation, saved him at first from the consequences of his antipathy to their religious policy. He had been appointed by Henry VIII one of the executors to his will, concurred in the elevation of Somerset to the protectorate, and officiated at Edward VI's coronation (20 Feb. 1546-7). He took, however, no part in the deprivation of Lord-chancellor Wriothesley, the leading catholic in the council, and, though he was included in the privy council as reconstituted in March, he does not seem to have abetted the measures by which Somerset rendered himself independent of its authority. He attended various meetings of the council until illness incapacitated him, and on 12 April he was directed, owing to news of the aggressive designs of the new French king, Henry II, to proceed to the borders and take up his duties as president of the council of the north.23 During the summer he was busily engaged in putting the borders in a state of defence and in making preparations for Somerset's invasion. On 8 July, as a last effort for peace, he was commissioned to meet the Scots' envoys at Berwick; but they failed to appear, and the Scots' attack on Langholm caused the council to revoke Tunstall's commission.24
Tunstall's compliance with the ecclesiastical proceedings of the council provoked a complaint from Gardiner in the spring of 1547, but in the parliament which met in November he voted against both the bills for the abolition of chantries.25 He seems, however, to have acquiesced in a bill 'for the administration of the sacrament.' He was not included in the famous Windsor commission appointed in the following year to amend the offices of the church, and in the parliament of November he took a prominent part on the catholic side in the debates on the sacrament and on the ritual recommendations of the commission.26 He voted against the act of uniformity and the act enabling priests to marry.27 Nevertheless, after the act of uniformity had been passed, Tunstall enforced its provisions in his diocese. He took no part in the overthrow of Somerset in October 1549, but attended parliament in the following November, and sat on a committee of the House of Lords appointed to devise a measure for the restoration of episcopal authority. He also attended the privy council from December to February 1549-50, and on 5 March was directed to repair to Berwick in view of a threatened Scottish invasion.28
But the hope that the catholics who had aided Warwick in the deposition of Somerset would be able to reverse his religious policy proved vain, and Tunstall, like the other catholics, soon found himself in a difficult position. In September 1550 be was accused by Ninian Menvile, a Scot, of encouraging a rebellion in the north and a Scottish invasion. The precise nature of the accusation never transpired, and it is probable that the real causes of the proceedings against him were his friendship for Somerset, sympathy with his endeavours to check Warwick's persecution of the catholics, and Warwick's plans for dissolving the bishopric of Durham and erecting on its ruins an impregnable position for himself on the borders. On 15 May 1551 he was summoned to London,29 and on the 20th was confined to his house 'by Coldharbor in Thames Streete.'30 During his enforced leisure he composed his 'De Veritate Corporis et Sanguinis Domini nostri Jesu Christ in Eucharistia,'perhaps the best contemporary statement of the catholic doctrine of the eucharist. It was completed in 1551, the author being then, as he states, in his seventy-seventh year. Canon Dixon asserts that it was published in the same year, but the fact is extremely improbable, and no copy of such an edition has heen traced. The first known edition was issued at Paris in 1554; a second edition appeared at Paris in the same year.
On 6 Oct. 1551 Cecil and Sir John Mason were directed to examine Tunstall, probably with the object of obtaining evidence against Somerset, whose arrest had already been arranged. Nothing resulted from the inquiry, but some weeks later a letter from Tunstall to Ninian Menvile, containing, it is said, the requisite evidence of his treason, was found in a casket belonging to Somerset. On 20 Dec. he was consequently removed to the Tower, and Northumberland determined to proceed against him in the approaching session of parliament. On 28 March 1552 a bill for his deprivation was introduced into the House of Lords; it passed its third reading, and was sent down to the commons on the 3lst. There, being described as 'a bill against the bishop of Durham for misprision of treason,' it was read a first time on 4 April. But, in spite of Northumberland's elaborate efforts to pack it, the House of Commons showed many signs of independence, and before proceeding further demanded the attendance of the bishop 'and his accessories.' This was apparently refused, and the bill fell through. Tunstall, was, however, detained in the Tower, and subsequently in the king's bench prison, and on 21 Sept. 1552 the chief justice and other laymen were commissioned to try him. He was tried at the Whitefriars on Tower Hill on 4 and 5 Oct., and deprived on the 14th of his bishopric, which was dissolved by act of parliament in March 1552-3.
Queen Mary's accession was followed on 6 Aug. 1553 by Tunstall's release from the king's bench; an act of parliament was passed in April 1554 re-establishing the bishopric of Durham, and declaring that its suppression had been brought about by 'the sinister labour, great malice, and corrupt means of certain ambitious persons being then in authority.' Tunstall was restored to it, and was himself placed on commissions for depriving Holgate, Ferrar, Taylor, Hooper, Harley, and other bishops. He also sought to convert various prisoners in the Tower condemned to death for heresy, but he refused the request of Cranmer, who had studied Tunstall's book, 'De Veritate Corporis,' in prison, to confer with him, saying that Cranmer was more likely to shake him than be convinced by him. He took part in the reception of Cardinal Pole on 24 Nov. 1554, but he refrained as far as possible from persecuting the protestants, and condemned none of them to death.
Immediately after her accession Elizabeth wrote to Tunstall on 19 Dec. 1558, dispensing with his services in parliament and at her coronation. He refused to take the oath of supremacy, and was summoned to London, where he arrived on 20 July 1559, lodging 'with one Dolman, a tallow chandler in Southwark.'31 On 19 Aug. he wrote to Cecil, saying he could not consent to the visitation of his diocese if it extended to pulling down altars, defacing churches, and taking away crucifixes; but on 9 Sept. he was ordered to consecrate Matthew Parker as archbishop of Canterbury. Ho refused, and on the 28th he was deprived, in order, says Machyn, that 'he should not reseyff the rentes for that quarter.'32 He was committed to the custody of Parker, who treated him with every consideration at Lambeth Palace. He died there on 18 Nov., and was buried in the palace chapel on the following day. A memorial inscription, composed by Walter Haddon, is printed in Stow's' Survey' (ed. Strype, App. i. 85) and in Ducarel's ' Lambeth' (App., p. 40). A portrait of Tunstall was lent in 1868 by Mr. J. Darcy Hutton to the National Art Exhibition at Leeds.33 An engraving by Fourdrinier is given in Fiddes's 'Life of Wolsey.'
Tunstall's long career of eighty-five years, for thirty-seven of which he was a bishop, is one of the most consistent and honourable in the sixteenth century. The extent of the religious revolution under Edward VI caused him to reverse his views on the royal supremacy, and he refused to change them again under Elizabeth. His dislike of persecution is illustrated by his conduct in 1527, when he put himself to considerable expense to buy up and burn all available copies of Tyndale's Testament, in order to avoid the necessity of burning heretics. In Mary's reign he dismissed a protestant preacher with the words, 'Hitherto we have had a good report among our neighbours; I pray you bring not this poor man's blood upon my head.'
Besides the works already mentioned, Tunstall wrote: 1. 'De Arte Supputandi libri quattuor,' London, R. Pynson, 1522, 4to; other editions, Paris, 1529, 4to; Paris, 1538, 4to; and Strasburg, 1551, 8vo. 2. 'Contra Blasphematores Dei praedestinationis opus,' Antwerp, 1555, 8vo. 3. 'Certaine Godly and Devout Prayers made in Latin by. . . Cuthbert Tunstall,' London, 1558, 12mo. He also wrote a preface to Saint Ambrose's 'Expositio super Apocalypsim,' London, 1554, 4to.